Why Obama Is Bullish on Facebook

Rick Newman

The social-media giant Facebook is still reeling from a flubbed IPO, but it has at least one friend in a very high place: President Obama.

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Social media, of course, is playing a bigger role than ever in this year's election, and it's well known that Obama has a much larger social media presence than his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney.

Obama's re-election Facebook page, for instance, has curried more than 27 million "likes," compared with just 1.9 million for Romney. Obama has 16.6 million Twitter followers; Romney, just 553,000. That huge edge is due, among other things, to Obama's high visibility as president and his aggressive use of social media dating back to the 2008 campaign.

Now, a new survey by analytics firm Socialbakers reveals an even deeper Obama advantage in terms of his overall engagement with other Facebook users. The number of users "talking about" Obama, a measure of the people responding in some way to content on his page, is nearly five times as high as those talking about Romney. In May, Obama gained 4.5 times as many new Facebook fans as Romney.

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Romney has had a few popular posts on Facebook. In April, a Romney post bashing on Obama for poor unemployment numbers urged users to "like" the post if they agree Obama should be a one-term president. That generated more than 60,000 likes. But it was shared by only about 1,000 people, and it generated just 4,333 comments, which indicates fairly shallow engagement for Romney's Facebook fans.

An Obama post from last fall, by contrast, on student-loan reforms, earned 23,000 likes--fewer than Romney's hit post. But the Obama item was shared 1,817 times and generated 170,000 comments, which means it generated a vigorous conversation on Facebook. That's the kind of "deep engagement" social-media mavens say is most effective.

What remains to be seen is whether social media will generate a tangible voting edge for Obama. Since Obama has stronger appeal among young people, it's not surprising that his social media cred is higher than Romney's. That edge may already be reflected in polls, which show the two candidates neck-and-neck. If young voters don't turn out in large numbers, Obama's Facebook flair may not matter. And Romney appears to be overtaking Obama in fundraising, which could be the ultimate trump card.

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Besides, neither of them has the social media swagger of Ron Paul, the libertarian rock star who is still running against Romney for the Republican nomination. In February, on his wedding anniversary, Paul posted a photo of himself and his wife at their wedding 55 years earlier. It earned 68,000 likes--the most for any candidate's posting so far.

Rick Newman is the author of Rebounders: How Winners Pivot From Setback To Success. Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman.